Top Ten Tuesday: The Last Ten Books That Gave Me a Book Hangover

I haven’t participated in a Top Ten Tuesday tag in soooo long. But this week’s topic really spoke to me. On the one hand, I love reading books that get to me so much that they give me a book hangover. On the other hand… who likes book hangovers? Whichever book comes next has a really hard time, nothing feels like you really want to read it, and the world is just a little sadder because that one book is now over.

But let’s focus on the good thing which is that all of these books are excellent and made me feel all the feels.

The last ten books that gave me a book hangover

Laini Taylor – Strange the Dreamer

Oh Laini Taylor! It may have taken me a second start to finally finish this book but that was entirely my own fault (time management, man) because this is a masterpiece. Everything about this book was amazing. The characters, the story, the world, and especially the language. It’s lyrical without feeling too flowery, it evokes such images in my mind, it literally made me daydream. Which is also the reason I have saved the second part of this duology for a time when I need a book I just know I’m going to love.

Helene Wecker – The Golem and the Jinni

This is a book that quietly grew on me the more I read. The story of two mythical creatures – the titular Golem and Jinni – are thrown into a world that is completely unknown to them. While this may be read as an immigrant story, the fact that we’re talking about two beings who are literally magical makes this all the morei interesting. Getting to know Ahmad and Chava, learning how to navigate the world alongside them, and figuring out who they really were was such a wonderful journey. I felt so deflated after I finished this book because whatever came next would have a hard time living up to this.

Nnedi Okorafor – Akata Warrior

This was a more pleasant type of book hangover. I absolutely adore the world Nnedi Okorafor has created and I just want to spend more time in it! The only reason I didn’t have a book hangover after the first book, Akata Witch, was because I had the second one ready to go. These books sucked me in so much because of the amazing world-building and characters and because it’s so different from any YA fantasy novel I had read before. I’ve said it in my review and I’ll say it again: the Akata books had the same effect on me as when I first read Harry Potter. It is entirely its own story but that feeling of discovering a secret magical world was the same. And who doesn’t want to feel that way again?

Maggie Stiefvater – The Scorpio Races

It took me a while to find my way into this book. Stiefvater isn’t known for flowery language but nobody can create a three-dimensional character with just a few lines the way that she can. In this case, she has created not just a cast of wonderful characters but an entire island filled with tradition and myth and life. Once I had allowed myself to get fully immersed in this world I never wanted to come up for air again. The ending was a thing of singular perfection. I cried and wanted to start reading the entire book again.

Katherine Arden – The Bear and the Nightingale

This entire trilogy swept me off my feet, but the first book gave me a particularly tough book hangover. It was like the author had looked into my brain, picked all the things I like about stories and stuck them into this novel. Russian fairy tales, a brilliant heroine, lots of conflict, a compelling wintery setting and fantastic writing. How could I not love this? The problem was that I read this shortly after it came out, so I had to wait for the next book. In the meantime, all I could do was yearn for another novel that combined all of my favorite things as beautifully as this one did.

S. L. Huang – The Little Homo Sapiens Scientist

Nobody was more surprised than me when this little book completely destroyed me. It’s a reversed Little Mermaid retelling – where the human scientist wants to become a mermaid – that packs way more punch than you’d expect. I’m so glad I bought the physical book from Book Smugglers Publishing because this is a story I want on my shelf. As it’s a retelling, you do know what’s coming ahead of time, but nothing could prepare me for the emotional punch. I was devastated, I was shocked, and I was very impressed. Here it was not so much that I didn’t think anything could live up to this book again, but more a general feeling of depression because of the story.

C. S. E. Cooney – Bone Swans

You can always tell when writers are also poets because even when they write prose, there is something special about the way they use language. C. S. E. Cooney is one such poet and in this collection, she wrote nothing but stories that gave me hangovers. Seriously, after every single one I thought to myself “This was the best one yet, nothing can be better” and then I repeated this until I reached the end of the book. One story in particular hit me right in the heartstrings (the Rumpelstiltskin retelling) but all the others were gorgeous as well. I have since tried to buy everything I could find by this author and I hope we’ll get to read much more by her.

N. K. Jemisin – The Fifth Season

As a three-years-in-a-row Hugo winner for this particular trilogy, I probably don’t have to tell you how great this book is. I had read Jemisin’s work before and was already a big fan, but when The Fifth Season came out, it was clear that she had reached a whole new level of excellence. All the things that are important to me (characters, language, world-building, plot) exceeded my expectations, and then there is one of the best most surprising twists that I have ever come across. This deserves every award it has won and it still makes me doubt I’ll ever read anything quite as good again.

Angela Slatter – The Bitterwood Bible

Here’s another short story writer that completely blew me away. Slatter’s short stories are interconnected (and also connect to her other collection Sourdough) so this didn’t feel so much like a story collection but rather like a mosaic novel. Fitting the pieces together, seeing how each story fits within the context of the others, was almost as much fun as the stories themselves. Slatter writes fantastic characters, putting women front and center. Her writing has a fairy tale vibe, all while doing completely her own thing.

Catherynne M. Valente – Radiance

There had to be a Valente novel on this list, didn’t there? It’s not surprising that my favorite writer also gave me one of my biggest book hangovers. In this retro futuristic novel, she combines so many styles and voices that at first I was most impressed with the writing. But then she also created this heartbreaking characters and tells an extraordinary story that I didn’t know what to love more. Reading this was truly an experience. This is a book you fall into like a dream and waking up feels just as painful as leaving loved ones behind.

I had to browse through my “read” list on Goodreads for quite some time to find all these books. It turns out I have read a lot of fantastic novels but not that many of them gave me proper book hangovers. Either because they had really satisfying endings that made me happy to start a new and different adventure or because they may have been great but not as outstanding as others.

2020 Five Star Predictions

As I’ll be away for a few weeks – escaping to a sunny hot place from the icy winter here – I prepared a handful of posts to bridge the time until my return. This is one I’m actually very excited for. I have discovered it through youtube where people wrapped up their 2019 Five Star Predictions and while I haven’t found the creator of the tag, I’m pretty sure I know what it’s about.

Here are the books I intend to read this year and of which I think I’ll be giving them the highest rating. On my blog, that would be somewhere between 8 and 10 stars which translates to 5 stars on Goodreads. I am curious to see if my predictions hold up and if I even manage to read all the books on this list.

Marlon James – Black Leopard, Red Wolf

This book has been on my TBR ever since it was published but the sheer size of it and the reviews I’ve read always made me put off reading it. I don’t expect the language to be easy, I think the plot structure will be rather complex, and I think it will take me a while to finish this book. But those are all things that I love. If the characters are great as well, I’m pretty sure this will end up as a new favorite.

Laini Taylor – Muse of Nightmares

This is a book I specifically saved up so I can read it when I most need something great. I adored everything about the first book in the duology and I have no doubt that I will love this one as well. Taylor’s prose is just beautiful, I already love the characters, and even if the plot doesn’t end up the way I want it to, I don’t think this would drag my rating down a lot. So yeah, this is the one book on this list I’m most certain will end up a five star read.

Mishell Baker – Impostor Syndrome

This being the third book in a trilogy where I loved both the first and the second novel, it’s a pretty safe bet that I will love this too. Mishell Baker’s Arcadia Project series has so much going for it on the surface, but it was the writing style that really drew me in. A great premise is one thing (many books have excellent premises) but when the execution works so damn well that I just can’t put the novel down, then the author did something right. It also helps that I love the flawed, multi-layered protagonist and that she’s definitely not your average Urban Fantasy heroine.

Rivers Solomon – An Unkindness of Ghosts

This is where it gets a bit tricky. I think I will love this book, based on everything I’ve heard about it. But I also believe it has the potential to go completely the other way. Of course I’m hoping that I will end up loving it but that’s how it is with books – you never know. Something everyone else seems to like may end up being a book I hate. But I have a good feeling about this one and can’t wait to find out if I’m right.

 

So here they are. My five star predictions for the year 2020. We’ll check back at the end of the year to see how well I know my own reading tastes or whether I’ve been mislead by cover blurbs, synopses and book reviews. 🙂

Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag!

This tag has been floating around the internet for about a week now and although nobody has tagged me (so far), I really want to join in the fun. I love the idea, I love the questions, and it’s always nice to check in on one’s own reading. After all, the year is already halfway over, so priorities should be made about what to read next.

❥ Reading Challenges 2019

Goodreads Reading Challenge: 45/60

I’m doing surprisingly well on my Goodreads challenge. I used to read 100 books a year with no problem, but the last two years, that seemed like an impossible task. But life changes, things quiet down, and I managed to find more reading time. I have no doubt I’m going to smash my Goodreads goal this year. Maybe I’ll even get close to 100 books. That would be amazing!

2019 Retellings Challenge: 9/10

Tracy’s Retellings Challenge still makes me as excited as I was at the beginning of the year. I have discovered wonderful new books, some I didn’t like so much, but the challenge definitely pushes me to finally pick up books I’ve been meaning to read forever. Or it makes me go out of my comfort zone and try something new. Either way, it has been very rewarding so far. My plan is to fill the bingo card until the end of the year. And if Tracy doesn’t create a follow-up challenge for next year, I’ll start the whole bingo card over again. Because it’s that much fun!

❥ Best Book You’ve Read so Far in 2019

This is so tough! I can’t go with just one, so here’s my favorite reads of the year so far with a link to my review in case you want to learn more about these amazeballs books.

❥ Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2019

Leigh Bardugo – Ruin and Rising
I didn’t believe any author could possibly write a worthy and satisfying ending to such a great series but Leigh Bardugo did and I cried and it made me feel all the things and now she’s one of my favorite authors.

Nnedi Okorafor – Akata Warrior
I haven’t reviewed this book yet because there is so much to say about it that I don’t know where to start. It had all the magic and atmosphere from the first book but bigger, better, and more terrifying.

❥ New release you haven’t read yet, but want to

SO! MANY!!!

  • Charlie Jane Anders – The City in the Middle of the Night
  • Ann Leckie – The Raven Tower
  • Chuck Wendig – Wanderers
  • Samantha Shannon – The Priory of the Orange Tree
  • Kameron Hurley – The Light Brigade
  • Marlon James – Black Leopard, Red Wolf
  • Leigh Bardugo – King of Scars
  • Arkady Martine – A Memory Called Empire
  • Holly Black – The Wicked King
  • S. A. Chakraborty – The Kingdom of Copper
  • Margaret Rogerson – Sorcery of Thorns
  • Karen Lord – Unraveling
  • Helen Oyeyemi – Gingerbread
  • Sam J. Miller – Destroy All Monsters
  • C. A. Fletcher – A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World

❥ Most anticipated release for the second half of the year

  • Brandon Sanderson – Starsight
  • Holly Black – The Queen of Nothing
  • Maggie Stiefvater – Call Down the Hawk
  • T. Kingfisher – The Twisted Ones
  • Laura Ruby – Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All
  • Alix E. Harrow – The Ten Thousand Doors of January
  • Tamsyn Muir – Gideon the Ninth
  • Erin A. Craig – House of Salt and Sorrows
  • C. S. E. Cooney – Desdemona and the Deep

❥ Biggest disappointment

Without a doubt, Girls of Paper and Fire by Natahsa Ngan and Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire. I didn’t write a review for McGuire’s third Wayward Children novella because it made me so angry. There is very little plot (as usual) and there is only one interesting side character. The protagonist was the most self-pitying, hypocritical, whiny moron I have ever read about. The thing is, she would say I dislike her because she’s fat (but I really, really don’t care how big her thighs are) because that’s all she does. Suspect people of disliking her for being fat when everybody is actually very nice to her. But because she has a problem with her own size, she assumes everyone else does too. I just can’t root for a character who constantly puts herself in a victim role, imagining and inventing reasons why she’s supposedly treated unfairly when SHE OBVIOUSLY ISN’T AND NOBODY CARES IF SHE’S FAT. Whew. So yeah… I liked the beginning of that story but the protagonist made it unbearable. I’m surprised my eyes didn’t get stuck from how much I rolled them while reading this.

❥ Biggest surprise

Mary Robinette Kowal – The Calculating Stars

I had read two of Kowal’s fantasy books (Jane Austen with magic is the elevator pitch) and while they featured great ideas, they were both quite boring. That series lacked all excitement and the style is painfully technical. Like, the words are all in the correct place and I can see what the author is trying to do, but there’s no emotion there.
All the more surprise when Kowal’s alternate history/science fiction novel hooked me from the first page and didn’t let up until the end. Although this too is a quiet sort of book, especially for a sci fi novel, there was so much to love about it.

❥ Favourite new author (Debut or new to you)

  • S. A. Chakraborty
  • G. Willow Wilson
  • Sarah Gailey

Each of these women impressed me with only one of their novels. I had technically read G. Willow Wilson’s Miss Marvel before, but this was my first novel by her.
S. A. Chakraborty’s City of Brass was magical and lush and filled with complex politics.
G. Willow Wilson convinced me with her new novel The Bird King, which was full of atmosphere and mythology and very, very human characters.
And Sarah Gailey just threw the perfect debut novel out there with Magic for Liars. I loved the characters, I was completely in for the murder mystery, and I can’t wait to read more by her.

❥ Newest fictional crush

I’m a little too old for fictional crushes but if you made me pick one that I think my younger self would have loved, I’d go with Sean Kendrick from The Scorpio Races.

❥ Newest favourite character

Hm… I already mentioned Sean Kendrick, so I’ll go with a different one here. Although the book itself wasn’t perfect, A Curse so Dark and Lonely featured one of the best, proactive heroines I’ve encountered in YA in a long time. Harper Lacy may have cerebral palsy, but she doesn’t let that hold her back from saving kingdoms, breaking curses, or generally taking matters into her own hands. She doesn’t wait to be saved, she gets up and saves herself!

❥ Book that made you cry

The ending of the Grisha Trilogy was just too well done not to cry a little. But Stiefvater really wrecked me with The Scorpio Races. I was close to tears for the entire last third of the book. But you know when I really did start crying? On the very last page, reading that very last line! I don’t think that’s ever happened to me and I don’t think I’ve ever read a book with an ending this perfect.

❥ Book that made you happy

It’s a little concerning how long I had to think about this. But while I’ve read a lot of depressing, dark, sad books this year, there were some that ended up making me glow with joy.

  • Madeline Miller – Circe
  • L. M. Montgomery – Anne of Green Gables

Circe may have started out depressing, what with the titular Circe being unloved and unwanted most of the time. But as she grows as a character and as her world changes and new people enter into it, her story becomes more joyful. By the end, I caught myself smiling more and more often.
I also finally read Anne of Green Gables after watching the first episode of its adaptation on Netflix. And I’ve come to the conclusion that if Anne’s optimistic outlook and pure joy for life doesn’t make you happy, nothing will.

❥ Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year (or received)

I have bought some seriously pretty books this year!

  • Margaret Rogerson – Sorcery of Thorns
  • Leigh Bardugo – King of Scars
  • Joanna Ruth Meyer – Echo North
  • Rachel Hartman – Tess of the Road

❥ Books you need to read by the end of the year

Well, there’s a lot of those. But because endless lists are no fun for anyone, I’m going to narrow it down to my top 15 books that I absolutely need to read before the year is over.

  • Joanne M. Harris – The Gospel of Loki
  • Katherine Arden – The Winter of the Witch
  • Helene Wecker – The Golem and the Jinni
  • Peadar O’Guilin – The Call
  • Peadar O’Guilin – The Invasion
  • Helen Oyeyemi – Gingerbread
  • Joanna Ruth Meyer – Echo North
  • Garth Nix – Frogkisser
  • Diana Peterfreund – For Darkness Shows the Stars
  • Margaret Rogerson – Sorcery of Thorns
  • Marlon James – Black Leopard, Red Wolf
  • C. A. Fletcher – A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World
  • Charlie Jane Anders – The City in the Middle of the Night
  • Karen Lord – Unraveling
  • Kazuo Ishiguro – The Buried Giant

I’m not going to tag anyone specifically because I know many, many people have done it already. If you want to join in and do this tag, consider yourselves tagged and maybe leave me a link to your post. I love reading other people’s freak out tag answers and discovering even more books I have to read. 🙂

Bout of Books Challenge #1 – The TBR Pile Mini Challenge

Ellie from Musings of a Bookshop Girl is hosting one of today’s challenges and because it requires people making lists, naturally I’m in.

The Questions:

1.  Which 5 books are at the top of your TBR pile at this moment?

2.  If I gave you a wad of cash and sent you into a bookshop right now, which 5 books would you buy to add to the stack?

My Answers:

The five books on top of my TBR list change constantly as new books are published or I read reviews of older books that make me all the more giddy about finally reading them. So this is a very momentary view of my TBR list. The current Top 5 are…

  1. Mark Helprin – Winter’s Tale
  2. Terry Pratchett – Witches Abroad
  3. Nalo Hopkinson – Sister Mine or Brown Girl in the Ring
  4. Jean-Christophe Valtat – Aurorarama
  5. John Crowley – Little, Big

Now if you send me into a bookstore, equipped with enough cash to go crazy, these would be the books I’d pick up first:

  1. Jeff Vandermeer – Wonderbook
  2. Nahoko Uehashi – Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit
  3. Hiromi Goto – Half World
  4. Maria M. Tatar – The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales
  5. Terry Pratchett – A Blink of the Screen

Bout of Books Challenge – Book Soundtracks

I think I have found the perfect challenge to participate in for the Bout of Books read-a-thon. I’ve always been one of those people who love to listen to music while reading because it makes the experience all that more intense. While, usually, I pick a fitting soundtrack, sometimes they just happen… when I still used to buy CDs, I would listen to the newest one over and over and if I was reading a big book at the same time, whatever CD was playing became that book’s soundtrack. Needless to say, there are some very embarrassing soundtracks from my teenage years. Yes, I’ll share them with you

First, the ones that make sense:

Catherynne M. Valente – The Orphan’s Tales

Music: S.J. Tucker – For the Girl in the Garden and Solace and Sorrow

orphans talesS.J. Tucker and Cat Valente are friends and, from what I see on the internet, frequently go on tour together. The authoress reads and Miss Tucker sings and/or plays music to accompany her. These two albums are highly recommended for many, many reasons. Every single song actually pertains to the story in The Orphan’s Tales duology, some tracks are readings of passages from the books, and they all create an amazing atmosphere. Sure, the books would be breathtaking on their own but the music gave it that little extra kick that will make these stories completely unforgettable.

You can head over to S.J. Tucker’s homepage and buy the albums right there – they are “name your own price” so even a small wallet can enjoy this folksy, mythic music. I went and bought the above albums plus the one inspired by Cat Valente’s Palimpsest. I also highly recommend the song “September’s Rhyme” to go along with the first Fairyland book.

divider

J.M. Barrie – Peter Pan

Music: James Newton Howard – Peter Pan OST

peter pan hymanI have been slightly obsessed with Peter Pan for many years and read it first long before the 2003 movie came out. Once it did, however, I bought the soundtrack and listened to it while re-reading. It perfectly captures the childlike wonder this book makes me feel. Movie soundtracks are great for readers who are easily distracted because there are no lyrics, just orchestra music. This one is sweet, sugary, full of stars and thimbles, and while Howard isn’t my favorite soundtrack composer, I think it goes very well with this story. The Régis Loisel comic adaptation, though… not so much.

dividerCatherynne M. Valente – Deathless

Music: Clint Mansell – Death is the Road to Awe (The Fountain OST)

deathlessThis one happened by accident. I found a recommended soundtrack list somewhere on tumblr and checked out the music on youtube. This one stuck with me and I listened to it over and over again while gobbling up this amazing book (In case you’re wondering: Yes, I am having a total love affair with Cat Valente’s work). I had seen the movie The Fountain but didn’t make the connection between the song and the movie at all. Anyway, the song offers the perfect mix of mythology and dramatic crescendoes for this particular story.

dividerChuck Palahniuk

Music: Pixies – Where Is My Mind

hauntedEver since I saw Fight Club and then read the book, I have been in love with Chuck Palahniuk’s work. The Pixies song is the one that plays at the end of the movie and it’s become the Palahniuk song for me. Whenever I embark upon the journey through one of his new books, I put it on and am back in this guy’s strange world. It fits not only because the song is featured in one of his movie adaptations but also because “Where is my mind” is the perfect thing to ask yourself while reading Chuck’s books. He is insanely talented but utterly disturbing.

divider

Now for the embarrassing ones…

George R.R. Martin – A Song of Ice and Fire

Music: The Killers – Hot Fuss

game of thrones whiteThis  album came out in 2003 which was when I first started reading A Game of Thrones and, like I said above, the two were simply consumed together because the album was new and I got the book as a gift. There is no reason whatsoever why I would recommend this particular combination of book and movie other than that it worked for me. To this day, I can not hear “Mister Brightside” without seeing the Starks going down the King’s Road to the capital. It even goes so far that certain POV characters are associated with particular songs of the album (in my head, at least). Go figure.

divider

K. A. Applegate – The Everworld Series

Music: Spice Girls – Forever

everworld series allMy only defense is that this was a gift and I was 14 years old. There you go. Again, there is no connection at all between the books and the music, it’s just that listening to the album while reading the series made them inseparable in my head. I can’t say I listen to the Spice Girls any more but when my mp3-player shuffles up one of their songs, I’m right back in Everworld alongside those four teenagers facing Norse gods, trolls, dragons and Merlin. I still can’t believe this series only got 12 instalments. When I was 14, I could have continued reading these books forever. Highly recommended YA reads (though not necessarily with that soundtrack).